What You Need To Know If Charged With a Federal Drug Crime
A federal drug charge is a serious criminal matter. Crimes under federal law can carry greater punishment than under state law, with numerous sentence enhancing factors and no possibility of parole. They require a great deal of review and preparation. This article will look at the types of drugs and criminal activities subject to federal prosecution, the possible punishment, and ways to challenge or resolve a federal drug charge.
Federal drug crimes are classified in the Controlled Substances Act, a 1970 law that establishes enforcement and regulation of drugs, and defines the criminal penalties for unauthorized use or possession. The Act categorizes drugs into five groups, or schedules. Schedule I drugs carry the greatest penalties, and include drugs such as heroin, marijuana, and LSD. These are considered to have the greatest potential for abuse. Schedule II drugs also carry a high potential for abuse but have some accepted use in medicine. These can include cocaine, methadone, and methamphetamine. Schedule III, IV, and V drugs have, in descending order, less potential for abuse and some accepted use in medicine. Drugs in these schedules include anabolic steroids, Valium, Xanax, and Codeine.
Federal drug crimes can include a wide range of activities such as possession, sale, manufacture, distribution, trafficking, importation, and prescription fraud. Also included are attempt and conspiracy to commit these offenses. Any type of manufacturing, distributing, or possessing with the intent to distribute illegal drugs is a crime. It is also a crime to operate a facility for the purpose of manufacturing or distributing illegal drugs. Being involved with others who are distributing narcotics, even if the involvement if minimal, can be a crime as a continuing criminal enterprise. It is important to understand that federal drug statutes criminalize many types of activities.
Punishment for a federal drug crime is going to be determined by the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, a complex system that takes into account and gives weight to various factors of the case and the accused. The two primary factors are the conduct associated with the offense and the defendant’s prior criminal history, if any. Once the offense level and prior history are determined, the defendant’s sentencing range can be established. His or her sentence will be set within this range, and there is discretion for the judge to go higher or lower in the range based on numerous factors such as the location of the offense, whether a firearm was involved, and whether anyone was injured. An accused may be eligible for a lesser sentence based on their cooperation with the government.
Because of the severe punishment potential in a federal drug charge, it is important to thoroughly review the case. Many drug arrests are based on searches and seizures by the police, and under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution these searches and seizures must be reasonable. That is, in order to obtain the evidence the police must have had probable cause or a valid warrant. Without this, the evidence can be challenged and thrown out through a motion to suppress. However, if the accused wishes to accept responsibility and avoid going to trial, a plea may be entered with the chance of receiving an alternative sentence such as probation.